Provision of 3-year degrees in Languages: An overview

Author: John Canning


Language degrees (degrees in which a modern foreign language is a named component) have often been one year longer than honours degrees in other arts and humanities subjects, as students have usually spent the third year of the course aboard. This article overviews the increasing provision of three year language degrees.

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The data for this overview has been gathered from the UCAS website examining the provision of 3-year degrees with named routes in French, German and Spanish for programmes commencing in 2005. The results are for England, Wales and Northern Ireland only. Language degrees in Scotland usually take five years to honours level (four for an ordinary degree).

This overview only looks at named routes . It is not possible to be certain from this data whether the programmes include or exclude any element of Residence Abroad and no judgements can be made about the nature and composition of the degree programme. The proportions of three-year and four-year degrees available may not be in proportion to the number of students studying languages on three or four year degrees.

Provision of 3-year degrees: a summary

There is a strong divide between pre-1992 and post-1992 universities in the provision of 3-year degrees. New universities tend to offer 3-year degree programmes (including single honours and combined programmes with two or more languages) whereas most old universities offer only the traditional 4-year degree. Of 39 pre-1992 universities offering programmes in languages, only 4 are offering three-year single honours language degrees or joint degrees in two or more languages. This is almost the exact opposite of post-1992 institutions where only 5 out of 28 institutions offer no or few three-year degrees.

37 institutions offer language degrees only as a 4-year degree or permit 3-year degrees in only a handful of selected joint and combined non-language/ language combinations (mainly in business or engineering related programmes). These institutions are mostly in the pre-1992 sector- only 5 are post-1992 universities.

30 institutions offer three-year degrees where the four-year degree is either optional or not available. 23 of these institutions are post-1992 universities or non-university HEIs. Of these, 16 institutions offer single honours degrees in a language or joint/ combined degrees in two or more languages. 6 of these institutions are pre-1992, but this includes an institution that offers only one three-year degree and one institution located overseas, but run by a UK institution.

Although most pre-1992 institutions are offering only a few or no three-year degrees, there are notable exceptions. Four pre-1992 institutions appear to have normalised the three-year degree throughout their language provision.

Other provision includes a private institution's two-year BA (Hons) and one HND course in Tourism with French or Spanish. Three pre-1992 institutions offer named language routes in Combined Studies (coded Y) in three years. Another emerging area includes language specialisations in education courses preparing for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).


Both three-year and four-year language degrees are widely available in UK Higher Education, with the three-year degrees concentrated mainly in post-1992 institutions. Many three-year degrees combine a language with another subject in combined or joint programmes, but there are a significant number of three-year single honours degrees available.

Related links

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service)